A Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737 operated by Indonesia’s Sriwijaya Air crashed on Saturday, presumably killing all 62 people on board. The tragedy is unconnected to the issues Boeing has had with its 737 MAX plane, but is likely to bring more bad publicity to a company that has had its share of bruises over the past two years.
The Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 crashed into the Java Sea on Saturday minutes after taking off from Jakarta. The investigation into the crash is still ongoing, but local officials told reporters the plane appeared to fall suddenly from the sky and break apart upon impact with the water. The plane had taken off amid heavy rains typical of Indonesia’s monsoon season.
That scenario is similar to two fatal crashes that grounded the 737 MAX, but the similarities end there. The 737-500 is an older model that does not have the autopilot software systems blamed in the 737 MAX crashes.
In a statement, Boeing said, “our thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families.”
The crash occurred just hours after Boeing had announced a $2.5 billion settlement resolving a criminal investigation into the development of its 737 MAX. The company has been dinged by a number of embarrassing stories concerning its safety culture and the development of the MAX.
The incident could also raise questions around the globe about pilot readiness. Airlines have scaled back flying due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making it harder for pilots to get required minimum flying hours.
Indonesia has endured more than its fair share of recent airline tragedies. A Lion Air 737 MAX flight bound for Jakarta was the first of the two crashes that resulted in that plane being grounded. And in 2014 an AirAsia Holdings flight enroute to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia, crashed into the Java Sea, killing 162 people.
The 737-500 first flew in 1989, and thousands of the model are in service around the globe. The airframe involved in the weekend crash had been operated by Sriwijaya Air since 2021, according to Planespotters.net, after previously being operated by United Airlines Holdings.